That is my driving force for becoming Scottish Labour leader.
Over the last 10 months, we have all had to make changes we could never have imagined. We learnt that one of the biggest sacrifices we could make was to stay apart. We learnt, truly learnt, who the people are that keep our country running.
We learnt how, despite the incredible commitment by NHS staff – by the nurses holding the hands of those all alone in ICU, the cleaners and porters working longer and more gruelling hours, the doctors fighting against the virus on the frontline day in, day out – our National Health Service has been left severely vulnerable, underfunded and left behind.
It taught us about some of the deeply ingrained, systemic injustices running deep through our society – the poverty that can lock families out of opportunity for generations, the racism that has taken a deep root, the rapid extinction of wildlife species and the impact of climate breakdown on communities across the planet.
And in 2020, more than ever, it has been clear to me that when Labour needed to be there – to fight these injustices, to change these structures, to protect these people – we weren’t there. We weren’t able to be there as the government I know we could be to change those things. We’d walked off the pitch.
As we enter a new year and look forward to how we might change that, I do not want to go back to the way things were before.
I do not want these injustices to prevail. It is not good enough for us to go back to the divisive politics of old. We must move beyond that and forge a new path for our party and our country.
I’ve returned to our communities and campaigned from there, working closer with members and crucially listening to the people of Scotland.
I have gained a new perspective on our politics.
The things we argue about mean little to people’s lives and we spend too much time highlighting the differences in our party – rather than focusing on what unites us.
The real battle we face in Scottish Labour is a battle to remain relevant, and that’s why we must learn to remember our common cause, and bring a positive alternative to the people of Scotland.
At this difficult time, we must work in the national interest and support the government in its attempts to tackle the pandemic, but also hold the government to account and put forward realistic, constructive ideas to help rebuild our country together. I will transform us into a credible opposition and make our party fit for the future.
As leader, I will listen to key workers, trade unions, experts and business leaders across Scotland to build a platform that looks to the future. We cannot go back to society as it was before – insecure work, an underfunded health service and the focus constantly on another referendum when there are far more important things we need to be dealing with.
As we recover from the pandemic, let’s build a country that offers opportunity and aspiration for all. A country united by what we have in common; not what divides us. A country with a properly funded NHS where we never have to choose between treating a disease like Covid or cancer. A country that has our schools restored to their rightful place as one of the best in the world. A country with millions more in well paid work, with a real plan for climate justice that brings the industries of tomorrow to Scotland. A country that offers opportunity and aspiration for all.
Mark my words – we need our whole team, our whole movement to do this. I will work hard to bring all of us together, so we can fight this fight together.
I choose a future for Scotland where we heal the divisions in our country, rebuild our country together, and look to our shared future.